Don’t Tolerate Dud Managers

Look around your place of work and identify a manager who is clearly a dud. It is not hard to spot these individuals. Of course, you can find a spectrum of problem managers, from mildly annoying to completely abusive. These managers take advantage of people, work at cross purposes to their true objectives, destroy trust, beat down people, obliterate the culture, and habitually turn in poor or even disastrous performances. The simple question for this article is why they are allowed to continue.

Bosses have numerous reasons for leaving an incumbent dud manager in power. Below is a listing of some of the more common reasons. This is a representative list, and it is not an exhaustive one.

1. Nepotism in its various forms is one cause. If the boss’ son is a jerk, he will cause a lot of damage and still (usually) keep his job. Any kind of “fair haired” manager who has favor with the decision makers can remain employed while being a dud.

2. The halo effect can be in play if a manager had a wonderful opportunity and really did a great job when conditions were ideal. In a more challenging atmosphere, the manager could struggle, but the reputation from an earlier time seems to carry through.

3. If the manager’s boss is just weak or fails to hold the manager accountable, then the dud can remain in power for years with no corrections. In this case, you have a dud working for a dud of a different kind.

4. There may be no other candidate who is trained or has the desire to take the position. I recall one area that was particularly difficult for any manager. The environment had been abused for so long that the people were hardened and would “eat up” even excellent managers brought in to try to change the culture.

5. The dud manager may be a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who is in position because he is the only one who knows the correct procedures.

6. The manager may be new and under extreme pressure from above to perform, so the abuse seems like the only way to manage. He or she does not realize this approach is really dysfunctional in the long term.

These are a few examples of why an incumbent manager who is not doing well may be allowed to sap the vital life force out of the workers. Let’s take a look at some ways to deal with this situation if you have a dud manager.

1. Some managers can be reformed and trained into being enlightened managers. This process takes good mentoring and patience from above. It is rare to actually change the stripes of a manager in place, but it can be done for some small percentage of the dud managers. Training and coaching are the answers.

2. Special assignments can help get this individual out of the environment long enough to create a transition to a new leader. The special assignment would be as an individual contributor rather than a leader of people.

3. Honest appraisal. Here, the senior manager needs to have the courage to let the dud manager know he is not cutting it. Often the dud realizes things are not going well but does not have the fortitude to change behaviors without a kick in the pants. He may not realize there are more productive alternatives.

4. Job rotation. Generally, it is not a wise idea to move problem managers around because they can contaminate other areas that were performing well. Occasionally a change of scene and the ability to work with a different senior leader can bring the manager around to perform better.

5. Removal is always an option. This tactic has a double benefit. First, the whole population breathes a sigh of relief and prays for a better manager coming in. Second, the actual performance of the unit will be significantly higher as a result.

Do not let a dud manager stay in an assignment. He or she is not going to improve over time. In fact, conditions will probably worsen. Since the capabilities of managers often follows a kind of “normal distribution,” there is always the opportunity to do some helpful pruning on the low end of the scale.

3 Responses to Don’t Tolerate Dud Managers

  1. Reblogged this on Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak and commented:
    Not everyone knows how to manage. Managers are not born – they are made. Your success as a manager will depend on your ability to communicate and interact effectively. If you don’t like being around people and helping others be successful – then you are going to be a dud manager. Great article here by Robert Whipple – The Trust Ambassador on that very subject. Well worth the read. Enjoy 🙂

  2. Elliot DeBear says:

    Andre de Waal, a industry specialist in High Performance Organization nails it on the head.

    de Waal says:

    “lf you’re looking to run a High-Performance Organization (HPO), you need
    to be able to be able to recognize the signs of bad management. lf non-HPO
    managers are not checked and dealt with, an organization will never be
    able to become an excellent.”

    Bad managers clean up the mess of their predecessors – even when there
    is no mess.
    When appointed in a new position, the bad manager claims that the predecessor
    has made such a big mess of the department that it will take at least one year, if
    not more, to get everything in order, and of course the bad manager cannot
    possibly work yet on achieving the departmental targets this year.

    Bad managers are always busy, busy, busy
    They are involved in many, many projects; in fact, they’re so busy that there isn’t
    enough time to work on regular tasks! And because these projects are vital for
    the success of the organization (or so they say), bad managers cannot possibly
    be expected to work on their departmental targets. They will get to that when
    their other projects are finished which they never are.

    Bad managers know how to play the goals game
    They know that departmental goals should be loose, with lots of slack, which
    means the targets will be very easy to achieve. Bad managers will never get
    optimal results from their departments; but that doesn’t matter to them, bad
    managers would rather have low performance than run the risk of punishment for
    falling short of ambitious targets.

    Bad managers only manage from a distance
    Bad managers love to use performance indicators because these make it
    possible to practice hands-off management. This in turn makes it easy for bad
    managers to avoid the day to day department activities altogether, And of course,
    if anything goes wrong, they can dodge accountability.

    Bad managers make lengthy, impressive plans
    When writing up the latest game plan, bad managers know that expansive,
    wordy, and complex plans always impress top management because it gives the
    impression that they are on top of their game and have thought of everything’
    They also know that you can bury all kinds of assumptions and preconditions in
    these verbose plans, which function as safeguards when top management starts
    complaining that goals have not been achieved.

    Bad managers only communicate in one way
    Bad managers are all capable of holding an open forum for employees to voice
    concerns, questions, and suggestions. This sounds like the mark of a good
    manager, right? However, the bad manager only feigns interest in employee
    feedback, and won’t actually act on what he or she hears. lnstead, bad managers
    stick to their own plans, lf people complain, the bad manager will use open
    forums against the participants, claiming that any incompetency is the fault of

    Bad managers are real Machiavellians
    They have Machiavelli’s book, The Prince from 1513 on their nightstand and turn
    to it often for advice on how to practice effective “divide and conquer/’strategies
    in the organization: manipulating colleagues, employees, and bosses. As a
    result, the targeted members in the organization become preoccupied with
    guarding their backs instead of focusing on growing the department

  3. This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Many thanks!

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